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After defining the purpose and setting the attributes of your prototype, you are ready to pick the right prototyping tool! In prototyping of processes and services we distinguish between prototyping of functional characteristics ("What happens?") and qualitative characteristics of a process / service ("How does it happen?"). A functional prototype helps you to display the sequence of steps of a process or service, roles, locations, coherences and the logic behind it. Examples are:

  • Flow chart
  • Sequence diagram
  • Service / process blueprint

A qualitative process / service prototype helps you to display the quality (look & feel) of each single step or a sequence of steps. Examples are:

  • Storyboard
  • Metaphoric model
  • Realistic visualization / 3D renderings
  • Visual storytelling video / screencast
  • Process / service simulation

Q & A

  • When shall I choose functional prototypes and when shall I choose qualitative prototypes? Often, a functional prototype is the first step when planning the testing of a process or service component. Then, when refining it, qualitative aspects can be included. However, including qualitative aspects only makes sense if this level of detail is needed e.g. in interaction with customers/users.
  • When shall I use physical prototypes and when virtual prototypes? Often it makes sense to let a team set up a LEGO® model because it involves all team members rather than only one person writing a flow chart. It is a comparably easy and fast way to come up with a model which includes roles of persons, subjects and locations. Too, the effect that we can touch, feel and modify often enables a better understanding. Later, the model may be transferred into a digital model which is more clean and easier to communicate. In outward communication it also looks a bit more professional.
  • When shall I invest time into making a rendering of a process model? This only makes sense if a LEGO® model is perceived as too abstract. It also depends on whom you will present the model to. Not everyone can and not everyone wants to deal with LEGO® models. Then, some kind of a more realistic model such as a rendering is a good way to go.


We use the following tools to build process / service prototypes in Business Design projects:

Role PlayAs easy as it is, sometimes playing a process through with others is sufficient to quickly analyze simple processes or to better communicate an service idea.
Symbolic magnetsA magnet board with symbolic magnets combined with white board markers helps to quickly draft a process / service.
LEGO® Serious PlayA special edition of LEGO with a selection of bricks and elements which are suitable for process / service prototyping.
Sweet Home 3DEasy setting up of buildings and interiors with nice libraries of useful shapes. Easy and fast to work with.
BlenderPositioning and rendering of settings. Drafts from Sweet Home 3D can easily be importet and rendered.
FreeCADIn case the process / service prototype needs to show individually designed products, these can be designed in FreeCAD and then easily be imported into the setting in Blender.
Powerpoint / KeynoteGood for quick 2D sketches and flow charts. Suitable for first drafts which may still be very abstract.
VideoScribeSoftware to create professional video animations
SimplefilmA small company producing short movies to display complex context in an easy and entertaining way. Interesting for developing storyboards.


LEGO® Serious Play - Functional prototype

A process model with LEGO® is set up very quickly. Basic components of a process such as stakeholders, equipment and locations can be displayed and modified easily.

In the example above tasks taking place at a customers home are modeled and right next to it on the right side the plant at which the product for the customer is being manufactured. 

Rendering - Qualitative prototype

Having started with a LEGO model or going directly to a rather realistic process visualization we can use a combination of Sweet Home 3D (good libraries for shapes such as furniture and people) and Blender (surface textures, custom objects and lighting). Existing CAD models can easily be included.

Above, a process of customised furniture ordering and manufacturing can be visualized in only very few steps. A customer scans the location where a customised piece of furniture is needed and customizes the furniture by a VR software. The order is taken in real time, the components of, in this case a shelf, are manufactured and packaged to be sent to the customer.

This type of virtual visualization allows quick adjustments while providing a clear picture.

Magnet board

[Foto einer Prozessdarstellung mit Magneten und farbigen Markern]

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